AS a Tottenham supporter, derby day was a less than pleasant experience for many years.
But in recent years, under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino, my Monday mornings have been greatly improved thanks to some eye-catching wins over Arsenal.
Rex Features3 Saints vs Pompey was the craziest derby SunSport columnist Dave Kitson played in
As a player, I witnessed one of the fiercest rivalries in football.
Portsmouth and Southampton maybe 30 miles apart but historically the hatred is as intense as it gets.
The story goes that after the Titanic sank in 1912 the Southampton dockers refused to crew her sister ship, Olympic. Dockers from Portsmouth stepped in and in doing so helped create one of the most passionate derbies.
In the season that I played against Southampton for Portsmouth, the first game at Fratton Park ended 1-1.
Getty Images – Getty3 Dave Kitson hopes Mauricio Pochettino will get one over on Arsenal
Getty Images – Getty3 Dave Kitson spent two year at Fratton Park
Southampton had been live on TV the week before and Saints fans began to sing ‘Portsmouth Skates . . . we’re coming for you!’ We felt the tension way before the match was upon us.
But I’d had a taster of the bitter rivalry between the clubs a year or so earlier when I played for Stoke.
I was on the bench with former Southampton striker James Beattie as we faced Pompey at Fratton Park in a Premier League game.
With around 20 minutes to go Beats ran down the touchline to warm up.
I have never seen fans erupt with such aggression towards a footballer warming up. He turned around at the corner flag and had a huge grin on his face. I’d have crumbled but Beats fed off that.
On the day of the return match against Southampton at St Mary’s we had the biggest police escort I’ve ever seen.
The home fans were waiting for us, lining the streets in their thousands. It was the only time a team bus I was on ever came under attack.
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Bottles and cans and food cartons rained down on us as we inched our way towards the stadium.
Every time the ball went out for a throw-in I expected a fight to break out — the animosity from men, women and even kids was absolutely unreal.
With a couple of minutes to go, we were 2-1 down but David Norris hit a remarkable volley to rescue a point.
I have never seen a wilder celebration. It makes the hairs on my neck stand up just thinking about it.
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Derbies are more than just another game. They can encompass geography, history, tradition and even religion.
They create heroes and villains like no other game in football.
I’m glad I experienced one of the most ferocious derbies in football.
But I’m even happier I survived because I must be the only player in derby history to take to the field being hated by both sets of fans!